"This is a huge confidence builder for the boys," said Northwood coach Alex Nieto, now in his third year leading the program. "I've always told the boys, at some point in time, you're going to step up and embrace the bigger teams like CdM and Uni, go to CIF Relays and swim well, and that's what they're doing right now.
"They're all taking it really well, they're all excited. The atmosphere on the deck is super focused on winning our league this year and placing really high at CIF. So beating CdM the way that we did gave them the confidence that these things are tangible for them."
Nieto said after the contest CdM coach Barry O'Dea acknowledged that even with those five swimmers, Northwood would have been tough to beat.
"He was like, 'You guys were too fast,'" Nieto said.
It's all part of the long-range goals put forth by Nieto, who also is an assistant coach for the Irvine Novaquatics swim club.
"If you would have talked to me a year ago, we would have said, 'We just have strokes. All of our stroke events are what we have,'" Nieto said. "This year we've got strokes and we're picking up some of the sprint freestyles, which is kind of nice, because that's what we've been lacking the last three years and that's what I've been trying to develop."
As important as refining his swimmers' skills in the pool are, Nieto has been trying to get inside their heads. Irvine is a hotbed for talented swimmers, and going up against University and CdM in league, as well as other big swimming programs in Orange County, is a tall order.
So Nieto does a lot of talking.
"This is something I've been talking about for two years now," he said. "This has been mental conditioning. At the end of last year, we tapered really well, and all the boys swam really well at league and CIF. That got them excited.